At a lobster industry rally Wednesday in Portland, a Republican candidate for Maine’s 1st Congressional District compared federal rules aimed at protecting the endangered right whale to sex crimes against children.
“NOAA wants to rape you and your family, and they’re saying ‘pick a child,’” said GOP hopeful Ed Thelander, referring to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “You don’t negotiate with a rapist, and that’s what’s happening.”
A clip of Thelander’s comments, posted to Twitter by the Maine Democratic Party, shows a small crowd react with total silence. A man holding a yellow sign reading “Don’t Tread on ME Lobster” visibly cringes at the candidate’s remark.
The Maine Democratic Party condemned Thelander’s comparison as “disgusting and unproductive.”
“Comments like these show he’s unfit for office,” the party wrote.
Thelander, a former Navy SEAL, is vying to unseat Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree.
Thelander’s campaign did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. But he apologized for his disturbing remarks during a candidate debate Wednesday evening.
“My comments were over the top and I apologize for that,” he said, adding he’s “very passionate” about the issue and has a close relationship with families in the lobster industry.
The Portland rally was held to protest what organizers described as “devastating rules and regulations on Maine’s lobster industry” and to call on the state’s attorney general to sue NOAA. Among other things, the agency is planning to limit to the number of vertical lobster lines in Maine waters and implement new seasonal zone restrictions in an effort to protect right whales, whose populations have plummeted in recent decades.
The issue has been front and center throughout Maine in the run-up to November’s midterm elections.